Locations,  Tourism

Best Onsen in Japan: Our Top 10 Ranking

Onsen bathing is an integral part of the Japanese culture. Hoards of visitors visit the country each year and end up falling in love with soaking in the hot springs. The perfect words to describe the dipping experience are therapeutic and refreshing.

The list does not follow any specific order because each one has its own unique features that have made it one of the best among thousands of onsens.

Private Onsen Bath
A private onsen bath. Photo by City Foodsters (www.flickr.com)

Tsuboyu (Bathhouse), Yunomine Onsen

You only live once, so why not experience Tsuboyu?

Saranger, TripAdvisor

That’s true. Tsuboyu is pretty expensive and not the most attractive hot springs in Japan, but it’s a cultural experience and has religious significance.

The picturesque onsen town of Yunomine boasts some of the oldest hot springs in the country. But how does Tsuboyu, located in an isolated valley of the Kumano Mountains, beat all of them?

Why Is It Special?

Does a tiny onsen such as Tsuboya deserve a spot on this list? It does, definitely. If you fancy taking a hot spring bath in a UNESCO World Heritage site, this is the place to be—the only onsen in the world with this title.

Being discovered around 1,800 years ago, Tsuboya is one of the oldest and arguably the smallest hot spring bathing spot in Japan.

Tsuboya bathhouse
Tsuboya bathhouse. Photo by Nekosuki (https://commons.wikimedia.org)

This tiny wooden cabin is overhanging the town’s little Yunotani River. Inside is a small rock bath tube that can accommodate up to two people; hence, this bathhouse is highly popular with couples.

This onsen is connected to the famous legend called “Oguri Hangan and Princess Terute”, which is rendered in various kabuki (a classical Japanese dance-drama) and religious narratives. Later, Toshiaki Toyoda retold that story in his 2009 film “The Blood of Rebirth”.

According to the legend, when Oguri was poisoned and about to die, his lover Terute gave him a bath in the sacred hot spring waters of Tsuboya. After that, the man magically restored his health and strength.

The Bathing Experience

The bathhouse has a tiny indoor rock basin where a maximum of two people can soak at a time for up to 30 minutes. However, the time limit cannot take the magic out of it since its miraculous waters are said to have the power of regaining health and increasing fertility.

Tsuboya indoor bath
Tsuboya indoor bath. Photo by Nekosuki (https://commons.wikimedia.org)

The water here contains hydrogen carbonate, sulfur, and natrium, which work well in treating various health problems including rheumatism, skin disease, and neuralgia.

The otherwise clear hot spring water changes colors seven times over a day.

Other Information

The bathhouse operates on a first-come-first-serve basis, with no option for prior booking. Purchase the ticket from a vending machine on the spot.

Admission Fees: $7.26 or ¥780 (for adults) and $4.37 or ¥470 (for 12-year-olds or younger)

Opening Hours: From 6:00 am to 9:30 pm

Opening Period: All year round.

Yes → Tattoos

No → Soap, shampoo, and swimsuits

Address: 647-1732 Wakayama, Tanabe, Hongucho Hongu, Yunomine 110

Official Website 

Sainokawara Rotenburo (Open-air Public Bath), Kusatsu Onsen

I couldn’t think of a better bathing experience with the ultimate authenticity.

Justine A, TripAdvisor

Among all onsen towns in Japan, Kusatsu has the largest natural flow of water and the Sainokawara Rotenburo is the main outdoor bath of this town.

Why Is It Special?

The waters of Kusatsu hot springs are said to cure everything except for lovesickness. Being the most prominent public bath in the town, the Sainokawara Rotenburo offers the opportunity to enjoy that therapeutic experience with your family and friends.

Capable of accommodating 100 bathers at once, this open-air bath is one of the largest outdoor hot springs in the country. Amid the beautiful views, you soak into highly acidic water that has been regarded as the country’s best for centuries.

The rotenburo also gives a glimpse of the countryside views of the area. Leading to the spring is a stone-paved winding path past a couple of cultural and historical establishments.  

The Bathing Experience

The rich mineral content of Sainokawara Rotenburo is great for regenerating both body and mind. The acidic chloride sulfate water coming from the Bandai hot water springs boosts your metabolism and cures muscle pain and fatigue. After a long day roaming inside the city, taking a bath here could provide the much-needed energy boost.

Beautiful forest views surround the large 500-square meter bathing area, which looks different in every season.

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Enjoy a bath on the backdrop of cherry blossom in spring, lush green in summer, and colorful foliage in autumn. Winter brings snow-white trees and the ethereal experience of bathing under gentle snowfalls. Another great experience is stargazing on clear nights.

Other Information

The bathing facilities are separate for men and women. Families and couples can take advantage of mixed bathing every Friday. The mixed-bathing day also allows wearing a towel or swimwear.

There is no shower facility in the precinct.

Admission Fees: Adults $5.58 or ¥600 and children (aged between 3 and 12 years) $2.79 or ¥300.

Opening Hours: 7:00 am–8:00 pm (April 1st–November 30th) and 9:00 am–8:00 pm (December 1st–March 31st). Admission closes 30 minutes before the closing time.

Opening Period: All year round

Yes → Tattoos

No → Towels not allowed in the baths

Address: Oazakusatsu 521-3, Kusatsu Town, Agatsuma County, Gunma Prefecture 377-1711

Official Website

Tsurunoyu (Traditional Ryokan), Nyuto Onsen

This Onsen is the most beautiful natural spa I have ever seen…. Once you are in water there is beautiful milky water and there is nothing more to see that beautiful nature around.

Michal K, TripAdvisor

Tsurunoya is one of the eight hot spring bathing spots in Nyuto onsen town. Being one of the oldest resorts in that area, it belonged to hitoh (secret onsens) that were hidden in the Mount Nyuto. It was believed that people used to guard these secret hot springs so outsiders cannot get access.

Tsurunoya ryokan
Tsurunoya ryokan. Photo by u dou (www.flickr.com)

Why Is It Special?

The specialty of Tsurunoya can be guessed from the legend associated with it. A local hunter, who accidentally injured a Tsuru (crane), plunged it into this hot spring’s water. The magical power of the water healed the bird’s wounds. This onsen resort derived its name from that incident, as Tsurunoyu means “the hot source of the crane”.

The milky water of Tsurunoya can treat various health conditions. This onsen is more like a natural spa located at the foot of the Mount Nyuto. The picturesque surroundings make up some of the best rustic views a Japanese onsen can offer.

The Bathing Experience

The bathing facility of this ryokan is open to non-staying guests for a fee. It has gender-separate indoor and outdoor bath arrangements. You can also choose a mixed outdoor bath and reserve a ‘family bath’ facility.  

The ryokan offers four types of waters possessing different compositions and qualities. They contain various minerals that give relief to various health issues including rheumatism, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more.

Tsurunoya open-air bath
Tsurunoya open-air bath. Photo by Fumiaki Yoshimatsu (https://commons.wikimedia.org)

Taking a soak in the ultra-hot springs won’t disappoint. If you don’t mind the rigorous winter climate, visiting the onsen from November to March will be particularly rewarding. Relax in the hot water, admire the snow-capped pine branches, and enjoy the snowflakes falling over your head.

Other Information

The outdoor baths are closed on Monday due to cleaning purposes. Indoor baths are available all the time.

You can get a towel for $1.86 or ¥200, but it’s only for drying off your body. No towel is allowed in the baths.

Admission Fees: Adults $5.58 or ¥600 and children $2.79 or ¥300.

Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 03:00 pm

Booking: 0187-46-2139 (7:00 am to 10:00 pm)

Address: 50 Kokuyurin, Sendatsuizawa, Aza Tazawa, Senboku-shi, Akita-ken.

Official Website

Oedo Onsen Monogatari (Theme Park and Bathhouse), Tokyo

It was an eye-opening experience. There are many different types of onsen in the park, both indoor and outdoor.

KokoJa, TripAdvisor

This is exactly what the Oedo Onsen Monogatari is famous for. Tokyo has many onsen resorts, but none can offer such variations. This is more like a hot-spring theme park designed after the streets of Edo.

The place is ideal for a bathing day-trip and you can also enjoy the sauna, ashiyu (foot baths), and various fun activities.

Main square of Oedo Onsen Monogatari
Main square of the bathhouse. Photo by Sergey Vladimirov (www.flickr.com)

Why Is It Special?

Before the establishment of Oedo Onsen Monogatari, people had to hop out of Tokyo to get an authentic onsen experience because the public baths here use artificially-heated water.

But this hot spring complex has quickly become popular because of using natural hot spring water. Featuring 13 onsen baths, it literally offers a buffet of hot spring bathing experiences with varying water textures and temperatures.  

Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a great place to be if you don’t want to leave Tokyo for a traditional onsen experience. Forget about your real-world problems for a day when enjoying a variety of baths, playing carnival games, and eating classic Japanese street foods.

The Bathing Experience

The main attraction of this onsen establishment is various types of hot spring baths. You can enjoy bathing in outdoor rotenburo, indoor pools, steam saunas, old-style barrel tubs, foot baths, and more.  

Oedo Onsen Monogatari outdoor foot bath
Outdoor foot bath. Photo by Ronny Siegel (https://www.wikipedia.org)

You can also enjoy rock salt sauna to relieve stress; the Bath of Silk or bubble bath for silky, smooth skin; or fish therapy for your feet.

Other Information

Like most traditional Japanese onsens, Oedo-Onsen Monogatari also demands no-cloth policy for bathing. If you feel uncomfortable, choose foot bathing where you are allowed to wear a yukata (a traditional Japanese garment).

Admission Fees: Adults $25.31 or ¥2,720 (Saturday and Sunday: $27.32 or ¥2,936, Special Day: $28.32 or ¥3,044) and Children between 4 and 12 years of age $9.84 or ¥1,058

  • Free for children under 4

Discounts for entry after 6:00 pm → $20.28 or ¥2,180 (Saturday and Sunday $22.29 or ¥2,396 and Special Day $23.30 or ¥2,504)

  • No discounts for children

Late Night entry after 2:00 am → $20.10 or ¥2,160

Opening Hours: 11 am‒9 am (the next day morning) and last entry is 7 am

Opening Period: Every day a week (closed once a month after 11:00 am for maintenance work)

No → Tattoos

Address: 2 Chome-6-3 Aomi, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan

Official Website

Iiyama Yutaki Onsen (Ryokan), Nagano

…with amazing views, this day spa hot spring is a different and complementary experience.

Jason H, TripAdvisor

It’s a different experience indeed. The Yutaki Onsen is not for people who are looking for luxury and top-class hosting facilities. Instead, this place is for those who want a more intimate bathing experience overlooking the beautiful Chikuma River.  

Yutaki Onsen is a family-run business that offers arguably the best bargain for a hot spring bath and ryokan experience in the area.  

Why Is It Special?

Yutaki Onsen is a simple hot spring, but it’s special for having the highest concentration of alkali among all Japanese onsens. The alkaline water has an 8.6 pH level.

This alkaline water is supposed to give your skin the best treatment, making it smoother. If you are worried about your wrinkles and crow’s foot, take a dip in this onsen.

This water also relaxes you by creating a soothing effect and treats various health issues including muscle pain, frozen shoulders, contusion, and more.

The Bathing Experience

The onsen offers both indoor and outdoor bathing facilities. The outdoor bath offers a visual treat by offering scenic views of the Chikuma River and changing landscape in each season.

After taking the dip, sit back in the lounge area and enjoy your meal with local delicacies such as Miyuki pork, purple sticky rice, and sake.

Other Information

The onsen has separate outdoor baths for men and women.

Admission Fees: Adults $4.75 or ¥510 and children (6 – 12 years) $2.33 or ¥250. Free for infants.

Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm (last entrance 8:30 pm)

Opening Period: All days a week except for Tuesdays. It could be open on a Tuesday in case if it’s a national holiday.

Address: 1898, Ichiyama-aza-kawaoshi, Iiyama, Nagano 389-2602

Official Website

Jinya Inn (Ryokan), Hadano City

Jinya is a wonderful place. A beautiful relaxing Japanese onsen, perfect for relaxing and disappearing for a day or two.

SandBTokyo, TripAdvisor

Yes, that’s true. You wouldn’t want to leave it once you are in. Standing against the backdrop of the Tanzawa Mountains, this traditional Japanese ryokan boasts a history dates back over 100 years.

Decorated with historic ambiance, it has a quaint Japanese garden spanning over a 30,000-meter square area. Besides, the interiors celebrate authentic Japanese style architecture, something that inspired famous animation director Hayao Miyazaki.

Why Is It Special?

The ryokan gets its waters from the hot spring welling up from the deep ground under the Tanzawa Mountains. The waters contain one of the highest calcium concentrations in the world. In fact, it’s said to have as much calcium as found in cow’s milk.

Tested and permitted by the relevant authority in the Kanagawa Prefecture, the water from this onsen is drinkable. Try it to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Bathing Experience

Jinya has 18 guestrooms with open-air baths for each one. These rooms have elegant decoration and their names have been taken from the classic fiction The Tale of Genji.

Living in such a room and taking a dip in the attached open-air bath is all you can ask for in a vacation. The calcium-rich water works wonder in relieving muscle and joint pains. It also helps with treating gastrointestinal diseases and wounds.

Other Information

Check-in and check-out: 3:00 pm and 11:00 am.

For Booking and Price Inquiries: Call to 81-463-77-1300 (reception time is between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm)

Address: 2-8-24 Tsurumaki-kita, Hadano-shi, Kanagawa 257-0001

Official Website

Seni Onsen Iwanoyu, Nagano

The treatment here was so thoughtful, so detailed that the combination of onsen, relaxation and food was not far from perfect.

NumWan, TripAdvisor

Perfect—That’s the right word to describe this ryokan experience. This highly expensive place arguably has the best onsen in the Nagano area. Robert S. Neff rated it as one of the best Japanese hot springs in his Japan’s Hidden Hot Springs book.

Why Is It Special?

This ryokan is special not only for its hot spring bathing facilities but for the complete experience. A classic Japanese ryokan experience blended with some European touches. You should consider a visit to this place as a special treat instead of a casual visit.

Located in a forest as a standalone establishment, the ryokan is so well designed and maintained that it never feels crowded despite having a full booking.

Apart from the impeccable service and pampering of the attendants, you would definitely love the amazing food there. The menus are chosen thoughtfully and dishes are made of fresh local ingredients.  

The ryokan has a public bath with an adjoining cave bath. Also, there are four private baths available on a first-come-first-serve basis. You will always get some light items in the fridge for snacking after bathing. Did I say the service was impeccable?

The Bathing Experience

The private baths are perfect for people who feel uncomfortable bathing in the presence of others. If you can get one free, you can use it as long as you want. Three of them have outside pools so you can enjoy an open-air bath without sharing the space with others.

However, the cave bath is the icing on the cake. Located in the recess of a cave, it’s so large that you can walk around. Hot spring water shoots down like a cascade from a rock cliff. The area around the cascade is deep, so stay careful.

Other Information

Getting a reservation is notoriously difficult as you have to book a room six months or a year earlier.

Fees: Standard accommodation fee per adult $267 or ¥28,700 ‒ $430.79 or ¥46,300 (sharing with two adults)

  • No single reservation is available

Onsen tax for one adult per night: $0.93 or ¥100 (free for children)

  • No onsen-only trip is available

Standard check-in and check-out: 3:00 pm and 12:00 pm

Address: 3159 Nirei-chou, Suzaka-shi, Nagano 382-0034

Official Website

Kotan Onsen Rotenburo (Open-air bath), Teshikaga

I went there during sunset and the view was really pretty. Soaking in the hot water was quite relaxing and enjoyable as the weather was quite cold.

rt37, TripAdvisor

Located on the shore of Lake Kussharo, this open-air hot spring offers a more natural, raw flavor of onsen bathing. A Japanese craftsman named Mitsuhiro Ogawa built this bath in 1983.

Why Is It Special?

It’s hard to beat the Kotan onsen for a raw, back-to-nature feel. Besides, you get access to this well-maintained spring at absolutely free of charge.

Being situated on the edge of Lake Kussharo offers breathtaking views over the water. There’s nothing to obstruct your gaze except for the mountains on the horizon.

The surrounding scenery is beautiful in all seasons but winter is the best time to visit when the entire lake freezes excluding the spring and its surrounding water body. Whooper swans and ducks gather on that warm water and you will feel more intimate with nature when taking a bath with them.   

The Bathing Experience

Kotan is a sodium-carbonated spring with a high amount of metasilicic acid, which works great for maintaining smooth, beautiful skin. The water also offers standard hot spring healing qualities such as treating muscle and joint pain, frozen shoulders, reducing fatigue, and more.

The onsen is surrounded by rocks and a large rock in the middle separates the bathing area for men and women. Taking a dip here makes bathers feel like immersing into the lake due to the same water level.

Other Information

The enclosure has two separate dressing rooms for men and women.

Admission Fees: Free of charge

Opening Hours: 24/7, except for 08:00 am to 4:00 pm on Tuesday and Thursday for cleaning.

Yes → Swimwear, towel, tattoos

No → Soap and shampoo

Address: Kussharo, Teshikaga, Kawakami District, Hokkaido 088-3341

Phone: +81 15-482-2940

Taketoritei Maruyama (Ryokan), Arima Onsen

I have the best onsen experience!…The 4 open air hot springs, everyone is so unique!

Besy L, TripAdvisor

Standing on a hilltop location, Taketoritei Maruyama is a luxurious ryokan. It offers private hot spring bathing facilities and massage treatments for its guests. Also, all the rooms in the hotel are equipped with all modern facilities.

Why Is It Special?

Arima Onsen has been drawing visitors over 1,000 years by offering two unique and rare onsen types: kinsen (golden hot spring) and ginsen (silver hot spring). However, Maruyama Taketoritei is the only onsen complex that offers both water types.

A kinsen is a strong salt spring. Its reddish-brown water contains a high amount of iron and sodium chloride. Ginsens are simple radium springs which have clear carbonated water.  

The Bathing Experience

There are a total of eight indoor and open-air baths in this ryokan. After a recent renovation in March 2020, all bath facilities are now private and reserved for the guests.

The private facilities allow bathing a serene environment while overlooking the spectacular views of Mount Rokko.

The golden spring water creates a soothing effect along with improving your health and healing muscle and joint pain. Similarly, the silver spring water is good for treating hypertension, gout, and women’s menstrual problems.  

Other Information

The baths are available to only the guests, and the fees are included in the room charge.

Fees: To get the room plans and price list, check here.

Opening Hours: 24 hours (check-in by 3:00 pm and check-out by 11:00 am)

  • The hotel may remain closed on irregular holidays.

Address: 1364-1 Arima-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo Prefecture

Official Website

Daiichi Takimotokan (Ryokan), Noboribetsu Onsen

It has a huge onsen bath were others go to from other parts of the town to use. There amazing views of the hot springs and volcanic emissions.

MgY, TripAdvisor

Established in 1858, Daiichi Takimotokan is the oldest and largest hot spring complex in Noboribetsu Onsen. The area has various hot springs, but this ryokan offers a great variety along with lovely natural vistas and fresh Japanese dishes.

Why Is It Special? 

The ryokan boasts of having an onsen complex featuring 5 types of mineral waters among the 10 types found in Japan. Each bath type has various healing properties. The quality of these baths remains intact years after years because of rigorous supervision from the management.

Also, the ryokan’s prime location right by the Jigokudani (Hell Valley) offers exclusive views from the men’s open-air baths.

The Bathing Experience

The ryokan has the Grand Bath, a massive onsen complex where five spring sources feed 35 baths. The five mineral variations include sulfur, alum, salt, ferrous sulfate, and sodium springs.

All the baths are clearly marked, so bathers know which type of water they contain. Besides having traditional onsen baths, the complex provides bubble jacuzzi, waterfall onsen, sauna, and steam baths. Also, there is an outdoor pool, which is quite rare in Japanese hot spring facilities.  

Other Information

The onsen is open 24 hours but non-staying guests have to follow these schedules:

Fees and Time: 

The Grand Bath ticket → Adults $20.93 or ¥2,250 and children (from 3 to 12 years old) $10.23 or ¥1,100 (from 09:00 am to 04:00 pm)

Late bath ticket → Adults $15.82 or ¥1,700 and children $7.68 or ¥825 (from 04:00 pm to 06:00 pm)

  • No entry fee for infants (under 3 years old)
  • Visitors must leave the complex before 09:00 pm

Address: 55 Noboribetsu Onsen, Noboribetsu, Hokkaido 059-0595

Official Website

Eli Civil

A software engineer, entrepreneur, and Japanese culture enthusiast. I travel the world while working from my laptop and try to visit Japan as often as I can. About Eli Civil

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